Friday, 31 July 2015

Red light indicates doors are secure

Ummm... so my skirt is a big, red homing beacon.

For real, though, it glows... And I kind of love that about it! What? Is high visibility not a priority in your wardrobe? Clearly you don't cycle enough.
Twirling twirling

Let's face it, the stand out part of this outfit is the skirt fabric, because, believe me, it's a knock-out! It's a gorgeous rayon challis I bought in Misan Textiles (whilst in Berwick Street this June to buy fabric for my Leavers' dress- More on that later) Really, though, it's all about that colour! Depending on the light it can vary anywhere between rasperry to bright scarlett, stopping along at garnet and cherry tomato along the way. Whatever shade it is, it's gooorgeous, even if it would give Rudolph's nose a run for its money!
Sneaky t-shirt switch
So this doesn't devolve into an open love letter to rayon challis I've put a moratorium on the following words/phrases generally associated with the fabric:
-Soft like a baby's bottom

In fairness this is probably the best quality rayon I've ever worked with! It's a little weightier and more matte than most rayons , but that lends it really well to making skirts because it feels more secure. (AKA less likely to have a Marilyn moment)

 ... Also it's like walking in clouds!!  Big (red) soft fluffy clouds. (Hah! See I didn't say cloud-like!) So, basically it feels divine and it's lovely and cool for a hot summer day!

I feel like rayon always gets a bad rap for being super shifty when cutting and sewing, but honestly it's not that bad, and it's practically docile compared to cutting polyester  chiffon *shudders* I only had a really jaggedly cut meter remnant, so I had to cut the pattern on the cross-grain, but other than that cutting left me relatively unscathed.

Onto the details. I knew I wanted to make a gathered skirt, but I wanted a little more shaping than a typical rectangle/dirndl, so I busted out the skirt pattern from Simplicity 1807 and subbed in my regular skirt waistband. Worked like a charm. I think I might make S1803 my go to gathered skirt pattern- not too bulky at the waist but lots of fullness. Although next time I might not bother with the front and side front panels. There's nothing wrong with them, but since I moved the pockets to the side seams the front seams are sorta superfluous and bug me a little bit. Either way, it's a minor gripe.

Construction wise, there's not much to say. I used all french seams through-out, including the pockets. (Did I mention how much I looooovvvveeee french seams?? Because I do... Love them... Like a lot...) I used to be super scared of inserting pockets into french seams but now it's like a second nature. Then I just added a red invisible zip and a rolled hem and done. Oh, and I also under-lined the waistband with cotton poplin, and used a lightweight fusible interfacing on the center back seam to give it more stability.

Oh, and can we talk about hems for a sec? Because as I get older my hemlines are slowly creeping... lower!! *Gasp* Is this that thing they call growing up...? Even with my new-found modesty I still shortened the pattern 2" before cutting. The final skirt is around 21-22" long, which I think works pretty well on me (For reference I'm slightly below 5'6")

Now onto the t-shirts. Yup, that's right you get two tees for the price of one. Both tees were made from the same knit from Stitch fabrics and it's seriously my dream knit fabric! Large scale navy and grey marl stripes made out of the softest, snuggliest viscose/spandex blend! Be still my beating heart. Plus, it was only £4/m and I got both tees out of 1.5m, (with stripe matching) with some left over. Score!
Here's a super awkward photo to show off my stripe matching :/

The first t-shirt (See above) is a rub-off of an old short-sleeve H&M v-neck that fell apart. It's one of those not-quite-a-real-v-necks, where the neckline is pretty much a scoop neck, but the neckband has a small dart which makes a V. (Was that confusing? I'd be happy to elaborate is need be) I actually really like this more feminine approach to a v-neck, and it was actually really fun taking the original t-shirt apart to see how it was made. I've made five of these, but this one is definitely the nicest.

The second t-shirt is my beloved Deer and Doe Plantain. At last count I've made 11 various incarnations of the pattern and show no signs of stopping. For numero 11 I chose to go back to the original. It's size 36 with a cheater knit FBA to size 40. My only slight alterations was to add 2" to the sleeve length because I have monkey arms. Oh and I also sewed the neckband with 3/8" seam allowance, because I thought a slightly wider band would mimic the wide stripes.

I don't want to speak too soon, but I think this t-shirt might be a contender for my favourite t-shirt of all time (Pushing the grey marl sweater knit plantain off its pedestal) Seriously, you don't even want to know how many times a week I reach for this t-shirt. It's just so soft and snuggly with the super long sleeves, plus it matches with pretty much every skirt I own! Also the Plantain's looseness around the waist really works well with a drapey fabric like this.

Sleeve hems

In terms of construction I've really upped my t-shirt game in the past year or so. I sewed both tees with a stretch stitch then finished the seams together with a zig-zag. It's not strictly necessary for knits, but I like the extra security it adds, plus it stops the seam allowances flip-flopping around on the inside. I hemmed them with a 3-step zig-zag, partly because I love the way the stitches sink in, partly because my double needle hates me.

Random tip: I like to stabilise my shoulder seams with clear elastic, but i'm not a fan of the look on the inside, plus I always accidentally press the seams to the wrong side and end up with scratchy elastic against my skin. To combat this I sew the shoulder seams then sandwich my clear elastic within the seam allowances before finishing them with the zig-zag. That way everything is stable but I don't have to look at or feel the elastic. Yay!
Bonus cat-pose derp. You're welcome.

So what have we learnt today? If you want to know the true meaning of the word comfort wrap yourself in as much viscose/rayon as physically possible. You're welcome.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Floral frenzy

Guys, Guys, Guys!!!  I MADE A THING!!!

 ...Actually, me making stuff isn't that unusual, but I'm BLOGGING this thing... an honour virtually unheard of amongst the majority of my wardrobe.

So, anyway this dress. What can I say about this dress?
1) This dress feels like spring and happiness and all things right in the world
2) This is the first time I've lined a sleeveless dress bodice
3) The pattern is Cynthia Rowley's Simplicity 1873.
4) I bastardised that pattern to the point where it's barely recognisable.
5) Despite said bastardisation the fabric's print hides basically all the details, meaning it looks exactly like the original pattern from a distance. *Face-palm*
Sneaky mannequin shot to (hopefully) show bust gathers

Want me to elaborate? I'd be happy to...
This dress started as me trying to recreate one of my favourite (taken in) RTW dresses. The inspiration dress (Seen HERE and HERE-it's day 16) has a fitted bodice with princess seams and gathering all down the center front going into a button band. (Side note: it's basically the Deer and Doe Sureau bodice) I love the original dress, like A LOT, but it's starting to look a bit worse for wear and I had a drafting itch I needed to scratch. Enter the knock-off.

I used Simplicity 1873 as a jumping off point. I bought the pattern  (Ok, got the pattern free in a magazine) at the end of last year with big intentions.

You see, S1873 has good bones. It's a simple 6-dart bodice with high and low neckline variations. I figured if I could get the fit right I'd have a sloper to hack at will. As it turns out fitting was a total nightmare (too traumatising to go into detail)... but since I now have a sloper, I guess it's an Ok trade off. (Sidenote: You've already seen me use S1873 as a sloper for this dress)

Starting point: S1873 view C bodice, size 12
Fit alterations:
-Used the size 14 bust darts (they end further away from the bust-point, so no pointy nipple darts)
-MASSIVE 1.5" swayback which gave me nightmares/heart palpitations
-Took in the side seams about 1/4" at the waist increasing to 1/2" at the armscye to eliminate armhole gape
Style alterations:
- Converted bust darts to princess seams... (PRINCESS SEAMS 4EVA)
-Slashed and spread the bodice to create bust gathers.

  • Starting 5/8" below the neckline, and ending 3/4 of the way down the bodice
  • I spread the pattern to be twice it's normal length for extra fullness
-Added a 1 1/4" faux button band to the center front
On the cuff alterations:
-I sewed up the lining before I cut out the proper fabric, so I could skip a muslin and still check the fit. Turns out my alterations had created some neckline gaping. I was able to dart this out on the lining (the patch the uneven neckline with spare fabric (You can see it a bit in the sixth photo). I then made the same alteration to the pattern before cutting out the real deal.

Other things of note:


-Invisible zip, stabilised with a lightweight woven interfacing. Sidenote: Attaching an invisible zip to a lining by machine for the first time is mind-blowing!
You can see the darts I took out of the lining neckline

-When lining a bodice using this technique ALWAYS understitch the neckline BEFORE you sew the armscyes... otherwise nerve-wracking sewing ensues
Chiffon skirt lining
-Lining skirts with chiffon seems crazy but actually makes a lot of sense. You see, this cotton voile is super lightweight and a little sheer (plus it sticks to tights!) Lining it with a white chiffon 1/4 circle skirt added opacity without bulk (Plus polyester chiffon doesn't stick to tights!)
-Rolled hems for all! And look ma, no hand-stitching!

Moooaaaarrrr bust gather shots

Information overhaul over, let's get down to the nitty-gritty. You see I like this dress, but there a couple things that niggle me about it, stopping it from making the cross over to full-blown romance novel love.

1) Fabric choice
   I like this fabric, really I do- it reminds me of my favourite flowers, Poppies- but it's just so damn pink!! Like seriously I have not worn this much pink since I was 5. I'm pretty sure the first day of spring sent me into a sunshine based delirium after a seemingly never ending winter of Narnia-esque proportions and I went a bit nuts on the floral fabric!

2) Length
     The bodice end just fractionally above my natural waist which irks me more than it probably should. Also I'd prefer just an inch or so more in skirt length.  I already did the worlds tiniest rolled hem to preserve length, but I'd like just a tad more... That's what I get when you're stingy in a fabric shop!

Despite the nitpicking, I this dress has a really special place in my heart. It's just so bright and cheery, it makes me feel like a little kid, but in a good way! Plus, it's pretty much on a weekly rotation so I must like it a bit... I think with a few tweaks I could easily have my dream dress and hey, I might even come around to wearing pink...

(As I typed that I realised that the last two dresses I posted plus the dress I'm working on now have a pink print... How has my wardrobe been subtly invaded by pink?! Am I just going through my unicorn/princess faze 10 years too late?!

...Clearly I need to re-evaluate my stance on pink... But now I'm wondering how many other things I claim to dislike but have been slowly accumulating... Maybe that's what it means to mature; to
become more open and flexible when it comes to changing long-held views... or maybe I'm just reading too much into this whole pink situation... Either way I'm off to have an existential crisis prompted by the colour pink.)

Over and out.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Not your average sundress

Do you ever wonder what makes some projects turn out perfectly and others flop? Why sometimes a pattern/fabric combination can seem perfect on paper but underwhelming in reality, and something recklessly whipped up one afternoon can turn into a wardrobe staple?

I think there are three contributing factors to a successful project. One is dumb luck; I figure if you try enough things some of them are bound to work out well. Then there's the decisions we make. Smart fabric pairings, fitting choices and considerate techniques can elevate an ordinary project to be something truly special that fills you with pride. Finally, there's magic. Yup, I said it, magic. Some projects are just blessed. I don't know how else to explain it, except maybe every once in a while the sewing gods smile down upon us, blessing our WIPs with cosmic love... or you know, whatever...

Anyways, since dumb luck and divine intervention are, by their very nature, pretty hard to strive towards I've been working on making good decisions. As it turns out taking my time to evaluate fit, working with silhouettes that I like and taking the time to bust out the fancy techniques is working out pretty well for me. I've made about half as many garments as I had this time last year, but I love everything I've made twice as much, and so far I've had no wadders! Success! In a way, maybe  making good decisions in sewing is a way of creating your own magic. It doesn't guarantee success, but it does push you unwittingly closer.

To bring that monologue to a focal point, here's a dress. Specifically a dress that is the culmination of much good decision making. I've been wanting a long-sleeve shirtdress for an eon and i finally have
one... in July... in one of the hottest summers in the UK on record... *facepalm*
That giant fold isn't normally there, I swear!!

What this dress lacks in seasonality it makes up for in awesomeness. For one thing this dress is the definition of a frankenpattern.

Don't believe me? Here's a breakdown:
-Bodice: Simplicity 1873 (size 12 with my standard fitting adjustments)

  • Hugggggeee swayback
  • 1" added to waist
  • 1/4" shaved off side seam
  • Extended the CF by 2 1/2" to make a button band like the Archer shirt
  • Cut the bodice back on the fold and added a back yoke (using the Archer for reference)
-Collar/button band/cuffs: Grainline Studio Archer shirt
-Sleeves:  Simplicity 1873/Grainline Archer

  • S1873 sleeves have an awesome dart feature at the hem, which I slashed and overlapped to eliminate. I then added some fullness back into the side seams and extended them to the length of the Archer sleeves, adding the Archer cuffs. BUT... I didn't take into account the fact that the Archer has a dropped shoulder so the sleeves are slightly too short... sigh...
 -Skirt: Mccalls 6833

  • Technically M6833 is just a giant rectangle, but I hate doing pleat maths so it worked out pretty well for me
  • I cut the back as drafted. For the front I eliminated the CF pleat, cut the front as two separate pieces and extend the CF 2 1/2" to make a cut-on button band like the Archer shirt
  • Shorted the skirt 1 1/2"  then hemmed 1 1/2"
 -Pockets: Simplicity 1803 (I use these pockets for EVERYTHING, no joke)
-Tower placket: Self-drafted (It looks waaaayyyy harder/more impressive than it was)

See... Told ya so.
Casual armscye french seam

This dress is also the latest installment of "Cam frenches all the seams!". Seriously, I have a french seams problem. I can't even look at a project without thinking "That's great but could I french all the seams?"

 The way I figure it, french seams are like the juice cleanses of the sewing world. Simultaneously humble and sanctimonious. They bring things back to basics (just a straight stitch and a lot of patience) whilst also making you feel like a rockstar! Also I defy you not to feel like a sewing god the next time you french seam in-seam pockets  or french a sleeve insertion!! Can you feel the defiance, can you?? One thing I do not recommend however is trying to french seam and plaid match... that shit's haaaaaarrrrrdddddd

Plaid matching

Also can we take a minute to talk about what a warpy, shifty bugger plaid flannel is! I don't know why but I was expecting it to be fairly stable to work with. Not so! Actually, to be fair, it's malleable nature made it great for some things like pressing darts and easing in sleeves, but it made cutting and plaid matching a nightmare. Also it picks up threads and fluff like a lint roller. But I'll forgive it because it's soft and snuggly as a newborn puppy. Also I bought it last August at C and H fabrics in Canterbury while on holiday with my best friend so it holds a lot of good memories. :)

A good thing about slow sewing is it makes you appreciate the details. One of my favourite details are the chambray accents i used for the inner yoke and pocket bags. No one but me (and you) will ever see them but I love how the chambray adds to the lumberjacky-ness of the plaid flannel!
Preventative gaping measures...
I did my usual addition of adding a small snap between the buttons at the bust to prevent gaping. However, I also used this technique (adding a backwards button) to prevent waist gaping. I've found the invisible button works perfectly. keeping the waist in place, but it does take some getting used to when putting the dress on.

That's about all really. My only problem is the weather. You see all I want is to put on this dress and dance around in it's flannelly plaid goodness. But it's so damn hot! Even thinking about flannel is making me sweat :/ So now I'm off to do some seasonal sewing... perhaps a nice wool coat...
Casual cuff buttoning